A former sales manager at Talking Rain says she faced retaliation from the company after reporting an alleged sexual assault by its then-CEO.
It was a surprise in March when Kevin Klock abruptly left as CEO of Talking Rain Beverage amid a boom time for the local company.
Now one of his former sales managers alleges in a lawsuit that she was sexually assaulted by a drunken Klock in a Las Vegas hotel room in March. The lawsuit said the company “terminated” Klock about a week later.
Talking Rain, which makes Sparkling Ice water, is based east of Issaquah in Preston.
The sales manager, who is married and lives in Carnation, said she was with Klock for a business meeting in Vegas when he asked her to join him in his hotel suite, the lawsuit says. In the suite, he began to compliment her and she noticed he was intoxicated, so she said she had to leave, the lawsuit says.
“He then grabbed her in a hug and sexually assaulted her,” says the complaint, filed in King County Superior Court on Oct. 10.
If you need help
News reports of sexual-assault allegations could be a trigger for victms and survivors of abuse. Here are some resources:
- The King County Sexual Assault Resource Center offers a 24-hour resource line (888-998-6423). Additionally, KCSARC can help connect people with therapy, legal advocates and family services (kcsarc.org/gethelp).
- UW Medicine’s Center for Sexual Assault & Traumatic Stress (depts.washington.edu/hcsats) offers resources, including counseling and medical care. For immediate help, call 206-744-1600.
- For readers outside King County, the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs lists 38 Washington state providers that offer free services. (wcsap.org/find-help)
- RAINN: Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network provides a free, confidential hotline (800-656-4673) and online chat (hotline.rainn.org) with trained staff members.
(The Seattle Times, which does not identify victims of alleged sexual assaults, is not naming the accuser.)
The suit says the woman quickly reported what happened to her supervisor, and nine days later, the company fired Klock.
The sales manager’s suit names the company as a defendant in addition to Klock, saying she faced retaliation for reporting the alleged assault, including multiple demotions. Two months ago, she left the office during a heated dispute with a new supervisor, prompting the company to say it “accepted her resignation,” according to the suit. But she argues she never actually quit.
She is seeking back pay and damages for emotional distress.
Klock, who had led the company for seven years, declined to comment, and it’s unclear if he’s working somewhere else now.
A month before his departure, Talking Rain had launched a $37 million advertising blitz for Sparkling Ice, and Klock’s success in growing the company previously had been featured in major publications like Fortune and Forbes.
Talking Rain declined to say anything about Klock’s departure at the time he left.
Talking Rain said it does not comment on ongoing litigation, and again declined to address Klock’s departure or the accuser’s.
In a statement, the company said, “Talking Rain Beverage Co. has always been, and will continue to be, a company that values its employees and upholds the highest commitment to giving all employees the right to a safe workplace.”
The accuser’s lawyer, Judith Lonnquist, said the woman did not file a police report after the incident.
“Most victims of sexual harassment don’t do that, in my experience,” Lonnquist said, noting the risk that coming forward could mean getting “victimized again.”
Lonnquist said the woman did tell her husband and another Talking Rain manager about the incident, in addition to her supervisor.
The case comes amid heightened awareness nationwide of sexual harassment in the workplace, as a series of high-profile men have been accused following allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Lonnquist said her client had already come forward before the Weinstein news surfaced in early October.
The lawsuit also contends Talking Rain cut off the accuser’s paid therapy sessions after two months and previously failed to process her application for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
It says the company initially offered her a job from home after reporting the alleged abuse, but it pulled the offer a day later. Later, she said she was a qualified disabled person, and, at the company’s request, provided medical documentation.
She was also assigned to a different supervisor. Her former supervisor, Chris Hall, who fielded the initial complaint from the accuser and has since been promoted to chief operating officer, declined to comment.
“She’s having a difficult time,” Lonnquist said. “She can’t find a suitable job, and she’s got a family to support, so it’s hard.”
A trial for the case has been set for October in Seattle.